As a lineman and kicker, Taylor Hearn doesn't grab a lot of the headlines at Williston-Elko.
But he did grab Division I attention at 6-foot-5 and more than 300 pounds and has committed to play at Clemson, so the rising senior is No. 7 on the list of Players to Watch for 2013.
Blue Devil head coach Dwayne Garrick said that having his college destination already decided will be helpful for Hearn this year.
“I think it gives him a chance to focus more on his senior year, focus more on high school football for his last year, not having to worry so much about who might be calling, who might be looking, who might be doing this, that and the other,” Garrick said. “I think it just frees him up to be a good high school football player, and he's already got what he wants in hand.”
Hearn is no-doubt a good high school player. His size and athleticism make him tough to handle as a tackle on either line, and he was named to the All-Aiken Standard first team as an offensive lineman. He also plays baseball for the Blue Devils and has a background in basketball, and Garrick said it's that versatility that made him a choice to kick and punt for Williston-Elko.
“Taylor's always been very athletic,” Garrick said. “He's just got a lot of natural ability, so when he first starting kicking, we could tell he was going to be good at it.”
Because of his multiple roles on the team, Hearn didn't leave the field much last season for the Blue Devils. Despite being in the action seemingly every play in 2012, Garrick said his workhorse will see even more snaps in 2013.
“Based on our numbers, he's going to be on the field probably even more than he was last year defensively,” Garrick said.
With that type of presence on the field coupled with his high-profile status as a future Tiger, it could be expected that teams will be target Hearn in their gameplans more. Garrick acknowledged that potential but said the Blue Devils' foes were already aware of Hearn.
“We've got the same schedule that we had last year, and I think he kind of had the bullseye on him last year,” Garrick said. “So I don't think that's a problem for him; I think that's something that he'll even thrive on.”
Even if teams do focus more on Hearn, Garrick isn't too concerned about it. Because he's a lineman and not a receiver or offensive back, there's only so much opponents can do to prevent Hearn from cutting a huge path for the Blue Devils' running backs or getting into the opposition's backfield on defense.
“Ain't but so many people you can put up there in front of him, so I don't think he worries as much about that as he would if he was a skill player,” Garrick said.
Once Hearn is through with his senior year, Garrick has high hopes for his tackle. He said Hearn has the potential to join Rafael Bush, a former Blue Devil that had his high school number retired and is currently a member of the NFL's New Orleans Saints.
“He'll be another one of those kids that if he can go to Clemson and do what he's capable of doing, he'll have a shot, I think, of playing on Sundays as well,” Garrick said.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
This story is the fourth in a series highlighting the top 10 Players to Watch in the Aiken area for the rapidly approaching high school football season. The list will be revealed in descending order on a daily basis, with the No. 1 player to watch to be revealed on July 21.
• July 12 – No. 10 Reggie Preston, RS-M
• July 13 – No. 9 Jaylen Lawrence, SB
• July 14 – No. 8 RJ Tyler, W-S
• Today – No. 7 Taylor Hearn, W-E
• Tuesday – No. 6
• Wednesday – No. 5
• Thursday – No. 4
• Friday – No. 3
• Saturday – No. 2
• Sunday – No. 1
The order was determined by Aiken Standard sports editor Noah Feit, staff writers Jeremy Timmerman and Eric Russell, North Augusta Star news editor Scott Rodgers, Aiken Standard intern Kyle Dawson, as well as ASTV broadcasters Ed Girardeau and Ken Brace.